Huang Lian (Rhizoma coptidis or Coptis Rhizome)

What Is Huang Lian

Huang Lian also known as Rhizoma coptidis or Coptis Rhizome is the rhizome of Coptis chinensis, Coptis deltoidea, or Coptis teeta, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. It is a practical and famous traditional Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (around 100 BCE).

There are 16 species of Coptis, which are distributed in the northern temperate regions. The underground parts of plants of this genus all contain berberine, which can be used as medicine.

Coptis chinensis is a plant that is intolerant to high temperatures and drought. They like a cool and humid environment. They often grow in mountain forests or valley shades at an altitude of 500-2,000 meters. They can be found in Sichuan, Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei, and Shaanxi.

Coptis deltoidea often grows under mountain forests at an altitude of 1,600-2,200 meters. They are mainly distributed in Emei and Hongya, Sichuan, China. At present, most of the Coptis deltoidea is artificially planted.

Coptis teeta mainly grow in virgin forests or mixed woods at an altitude of 2,400-3,400 meters. Most of them are wild, and they are distributed in northwestern Yunnan and southeast Tibet.

Coptis chinensis

Every autumn, people gather the rhizomes of Coptis chinensis, Coptis deltoidea, or Coptis teeta, remove impurities and their fibrous roots, dry them, cut them into slices, use them directly, or process them with ginger juice, wine, or Wu Zhu Yu (Evodiae Fructus), and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Huang Lian contains berberine, palmatine, coptisine, epiberberine, columbamine, jatrorrhizine, berberrubine, magnoflorine, berberamine, corydine, thalifoline, chlorogenic acid, salvianic acid, vanillic acid, ferulic acid, catechol, lactic acid, 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid, protocatechuic acid, rhamnetin, wogonin, starch, resin, tannin, β-sitosterol, pigment, and lignans.

According to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the medicinal nature of Huang Lian is relatively cold, with a bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the heart, spleen, stomach, gall bladder, and large intestine meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is often used to clear heat and dry dampness, reduce fire and remove toxins, treat bacillary dysentery, nonspecific ulcerative colitis, viral colitis, acute gastroenteritis, atrophic gastritis, chronic rhinitis, acute cerebral infarction, Chronic cholecystitis, tuberculosis, lung abscess, respiratory infection, whooping cough, arrhythmia, hypertension, diabetes, cervical erosion, atrophic rhinitis, acute conjunctivitis, trachoma, herpes simplex keratitis, suppurative otitis media, and burns.

There are more than 300 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Angong Niuhuang Wan, Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan, and Zuo Jin Wan.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting xylene-induced ear swelling in mice and carrageenan-induced toe swelling in rats.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging hydroxyl free radicals, DPPH free radicals, and super anion free radicals.
  • Inhibiting gastric acid secretion and antagonizing experimental gastric ulcers.
  • Promoting the conversion and excretion of cholesterol, reducing blood total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Reducing the glycogen content of the liver and diaphragm, lowering blood sugar, and treating diabetes and diabetic complications.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation induced by arachidonic acid, ADP, or calcium ionophore.
  • Clearing damp-heat in middle energizer, treating fullness and oppression in chest and abdomen, nausea, and vomiting caused by the damp-heat obstructing the middle energizer.
  • Treating distending pain of hypochondrium, vomiting, and acid regurgitation caused by liver-fire attacking stomach.
  • Treating diarrhea with fever, abdominal pain, tenesmus, and bloody dysentery caused by damp-heat.
  • Purging heart fire and relieving delirium, irritability, and insomnia caused by heart-fire hyperactivity.
  • Removing heat toxins, relieving skin ulcers and abscesses.
  • Relieving severe toothache caused by an upward attack of stomach fire.
  • Treating polydipsia, hyperdiuresis, overeating with marasmus, fatigue, high blood sugar, and urine sugar caused by the exuberance of stomach fire, deficiency of the kidney yin, or hyperactivity of heart-stomach fire.
  • A small dose of berberine can excite the heart, enhance the contractility of the heart, and increase coronary blood flow.
  • Large doses of berberine can inhibit the heart and weaken the contractility of the heart.
  • A small dose of berberine has a strengthening effect on the excitatory process of the cerebral cortex of animals, and a large dose of berberine has a strengthening effect on the inhibitory process of the cerebral cortex.
  • Its decoction for external application can treat skin eczema, suppurative otitis media, and acute keratitis.
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells, colon cancer HT-29 cells, pancreatic cancer Panc-1 and MIA-PaCa2 cells, gastric cancer MGC-803, BGC-823, and SGC-7901 cells, ovarian cancer SKOV3 cells, and breast cancer TNBC cells.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pneumococcus, Vibrio cholerae, Bacillus anthracis, Shigella, Pneumoniae, Diphtheria, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus pertussis, Yersinia pestis, Brucella, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • Studies have found that it can expand the blood vessels in the meninges of anesthetized mice and increase their local blood flow. It has an obvious protective effect on brain tissue damage caused by ischemia-reperfusion.


Side Effects

  • At present, no data has been found showing that Huang Lian is poisonous.
  • Taking it for a long time may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other adverse reactions.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Huang Lian should be controlled at 2-5g.
  • It can be made into an oral decoction or be used to soak and wash the affected part.
  • People who are allergic to Huang Lian should not take it.
  • During the medication, you should not eat pork and spicy, raw or cold food.
  • It should not be taken with Ju Hua (Flos Chrysanthemi), Yuan Hua (Genkwa Flos), Xuan Shen (Radix Scrophulariae), Jiang Can (Bombyx Batryticatus), or Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae).
  • People with deficiency-cold in the spleen and stomach should not take it.
  • Patients with consumption of body-fluid due to yin deficiency should not take it.
  • Patients with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea should not take it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.
  • The stir-fried Huang Lian with wine is often used to clear heat in the upper jiao and treat redness, swelling, pain, and mouth sores.
  • The cooked Huang Lian with ginger juice is often used to clear stomach heat, relieve stomach pain and vomiting.
  • The cooked Huang Lian with Wu Zhu Yu (Fructus Evodiae) is often used to soothe the liver and regulate the stomach, and treat the vomiting and acid regurgitation caused by disharmony between liver and stomach.